Last week was Open House weekend as the 40,000 or so people that went to Battersea Power Station should know. Having had a quick peek at it recently as part of the improvement zone project I was able to visit a couple of eco homes instead. Having seen quite a number of architect led fantasy eco homes as part of other tours I was eager instead to see some normal houses that had been upgraded at a reasonable cost and with great savings. The first visit was to The Coach House in Belsize Park a lovely house on the end of a Georgian terrace. Waiting outside we particularly admired the tradesman’s entrance with the big Tradesmen sign above it. We were welcomed in by the owners along with a couple of other early risers. We began with an introduction to the house and the owners ambitions for the refit. They wanted to achieve somewhere near the 80% reduction in carbon emissions and energy usage that the government has committed to for 2050. They have achieved something near this through insulating the walls and the roof, replacing and refurbishing windows and using low energy bulbs and heating controls. The walls were particularly impressive, the internal wall insulation added at the front of the house is almost impossible to spot: And the only way to tell that the outside has been done is to tap the wall and listen to the slightly hollow sound created by the foam underneath: The roof was mostly flat and had been insulated externally with decking placed on top of that so you can walk on it: Inside there is a an Owl electricity meter and Passivsystems heat control. I was pleased to learn afterwards that they had used a Parity Home Energy Masterplan to plan out the refurbishment of their house. You can read lots more about the house and see videos on the Superhomes website. Well worth a look, particularly to see how unobtrusive wall insulation is. A lot of people I speak to seem to think it will make there rooms tiny but this is definitely not the case, and you get great windowsills for plants etc. This was further illustrated by the next house we visited in a mansion block near King’s Cross. This was also a super home and a cosy flat on the top floor. The flat had also had internal insulation on the walls and this time the ceiling as well. Again the insulation couldn’t be seen and the owners had also added coving to the ceiling and the same time improving the look of the flat.
I have been planning a few visits for Open House this weekend as it is a great chance to snoop around and pick up tips for future projects. I have found 3 eco homes in South London and 4 in North London so you can choose, or get up early and do them all. The North London ones are all tours with www.superhomes.org.uk and need to be booked and the South London ones you can just turn up for. North London London, Camden, Belsize Park Gardens, The Coach House This looks a pretty smart house with has had a lot of money invested in it. Sounds like they have a real enthusiasm and a lovely house. Includes wall insulation, LED lights and an electricity monitoring system. London, Camden, St Augustine’s Road A project by Camden Council to make a large house as sustainable as possible, worth a view and on the route between the others. Includes solar water heating, draught proofing and a condensing boiler. London, Camden, Judd St, Queen Alexandra Mansions A definite research visit this one, I am always being asked what you can do in a flat and I hope to pick up some tips here. Includes low energy bulbs and wall insulation. London, Hackney, Amhurst Road This is a house I have visited before and found inspirational when I visited. They have produced an excellent pragmatic retrofit that didn’t require rebuilding the whole house but still made a big difference to costs. This one is a little off the map from the others but I didn’t want to miss it out. Maybe have a cup of tea round Kings Cross and then head out here or visit first or last depending on where you live. Includes biodiversity features along with the usual wall insulation etc. South London 49 Camberwell Grove, SE5 8JA, London, England A long thin house that sounds really interesting for a nose around with some great green features including rainwater harvesting and solar panels. 3 Acorns Retro Eco-house, 2 Coleman Road, Camberwell, SE5 7TG, London, England Another inspiring home that shows real practical changes you can make to any house and save. The owner is inspirational too and I left with a copy of his book last time I visited and have used it lots since, you can buy one here or probably when you get to the house. Includes solar thermal, solar panels and my favourite the ecofan. Quay House, 2C Kings Grove (Queens Road end), SE15 2NB, London, England A bit further out but I hope I get time to look at this stylish and modern development. Map I have had a go at creating a Google map here there is an obvious route between the first 3 in North London and the south ones are pretty close together too. Home surveys If you feel inspired to change your home after your visit why not book an Ecoalex home eco audit for your house and see what you could change.
I have completed Eco audits on a few houses now for Ecoalex and thought I might share with you some of the things I have learnt. Most people so far have been more interested in getting their houses warmer rather than saving money. Their houses are failing on the most basic of functions, keeping the occupants comfortable. Using fewer resources and saving money is also important but hasn’t been the key driver. There are also often easy and cheap actions that can be taken to make the houses warmer. For instance this front door has a wonderful halo of light around it from the sunshine streaming through the large gaps all around it. You can see in the picture I have pointed out a couple of other simple things to resolve like the unused curtain rail, ripe for a nice curtain to keep out draughts. Front doors, particularly nice hand made ones seem to be letting in air in many houses, they can be sealed quite easily either with DIY solutions. If you don’t fancy DIY we can fit routed draught excluders to the door. Another area I have noticed people neglecting a little is insulation. There is usually some in the loft but often not enough, then there are loads of other areas such as crawl spaces round a room in the roof that can be stuffed full of insulation. At the moment it is available for about £3 a roll in DIY stores as energy companies fulfill their obligations and you can even get it installed for free in certain circumstances so get it done now. Get in touch with me if you want a hand
I have just got the energy bills from my first insulation and draught proofing project for www.ecoalex.com and they are excellent: This was for a four bedroom detached house in Hertfordshire and we carried out the following measures in November/December last year: Draught proofed each room around skirtings, windows and other holes Added temporary secondary glazing to non double glazed windows Installed heavy curtain on front door Draught stripped doors and windows Since then we have added 200mm of insulation in the flat roof of the house whilst building a green roof and also in other hard to access roof areas with the help of a local builder. This should mean we see a reduction in energy over next year as well. In 2012 we plan to start installing internal insulation in the empty cavities in the walls of the house. Apart from the energy savings, carbon reductions and money saving the most important thing to the occupants of the house is that the living room is warm and comfortable. Have a look at my website and let me know if you would like me to do the same for your house.